The entire continental United States is experiencing widespread flu right now, the first time in the 13 years of the current tracking system that that has happened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said that this flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years.

The rate of flu hospitalizations — the number of people hospitalized with flu per 100,000 — rose sharply last week compared with the previous week. Last week it was 22.7 per 100,000 people; the week before that rate was 13.7.

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At the peak of the 2014-15 season, one of the two most severe seasons in the last 15 years or so, 29.9 people out of every 100,000 were hospitalized for flu.

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The latest data — for the week ending Jan. 6 — suggest the season may be peaking right now, the CDC’s director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told reporters Friday. But she warned that many more people will be infected before the season is over.

There’s a difference between an active flu season — when a large number of people get sick — and a severe season, when the numbers of people hospitalized for flu or who die from the infection are unusually high.

It can be hard to tell in real time where a flu season will fall on the severity scale, because sometimes reports of influenza hospitalization and deaths — especially deaths among children — lag.

That said, this year is starting to look like a severe season, and maybe more severe than last year, which was also bad, said Dr. Dan Jernigan, head of CDC’s influenza division.

“There’s lots of flu in lots of places,” he said.

So far, Jernigan said, this year’s season doesn’t appear to be quite as bad as 2014-15.

The influenza A virus H3N2 has caused the lion’s share of the illness in most parts of the country this year.

But recently there’s been an uptick in activity by another influenza A virus, H1N1, Jernigan said, warning that even if the season appears to have peaked, flu viruses will circulate for weeks to come and people should continue to take precautions against getting infected.

Jernigan said that people over the age of 65 are being hospitalized for flu this season more than any other population. Even people age 50 to 64 are being hospitalized in high numbers.

Flu often hits the ends of the age spectrum more than the middle, and that’s the case this year as well. The CDC reported seven more children have died from flu, bringing the season total to 20 so far. While tragic, that number is low in comparison with other years — 110 last year, 92 in 2015-2016. But if other seasons are a gauge, that grim tally may continue to rise in coming weeks.

Officials feared that the flu vaccine may not work particularly well this season, but it appears to be faring slightly better than expected.

Preliminary testing by the CDC suggests the vaccine is probably more protective than it was in Australia during its 2017 winter. The Australian interim estimate suggested the H3N2 component of the vaccine — and H3N2 was the main virus there during their most recent winter — was only about 10 percent effective.

That means if 100 people got the flu shot and all were exposed to H3N2 viruses, only 10 would have been protected.

Jernigan said it looks more like the H3N2 portion of the vaccine is performing here like it did last year, when it was 34 percent effective at preventing infection. Unfortunately, that’s about on par for the flu shot’s H3N2 component, which is the weak link of flu vaccine.

The CDC should have interim data on the question of the vaccine’s effectiveness in the second half of February.

  • The H3N2 is working better than expected.
    But now there is an uptick in H1N1.
    Unfortunately, headlines about how influenza is really bad this year prompt people to believe flu shots don’t work.
    Why not report more factually. And include the information that the H1N1 is the strain that went around the world in 1918 and killed 3% of the worlds population? It’s one of the deadliest strains of influenza, and the news that it’s back this year should scare the hell out of everybody

    • Agree about you caution on dramatized headlines and messaging potentially scaring or discouraging folks from getting the vaccine.

      Slight correction: H1N1 is not a strain but rather a sub-type. There are many many strains of H1N1.. one of those was responsible for the Spanish flu. Every year there is some strain(s) of H1N1 that is causing flu somewhere in the world.. most don’t rise to the severity of Spanish flu. Even this year’s prevalent H1N1 strain is NOT the Spanish flu one.. so like your other caution above.. we have to be careful with our facts before causing alarm.

  • so expectations were that it wasnt going to work well when released, but it has worked better than expected…???

  • so expectations were that it wasnt going to work well when released, but it has worked better than expected…??? CDC at its best. Control the message of health, drugs, and all its evils.

    • “So expectations were that it wasnt going to work well when released, …CDC blah, blah”

      Whatever your agenda against CDC is, you statement is erroneous. The article clearly indicates that the expectations were lowered after the Australian flu season and not at the time of vaccine release. Just in case you are not aware, Australia -> Southern Hemisphere -> seasons reversed from us -> Winter/flu in July-August.

      Some more facts that are not in the article but you could have easily researched:
      1. WHO, and not CDC, is the agency which recommends which strains to include in the flu vaccine for a particular season
      2. WHO makes separate recommendations for the Northern and Southern hemispheres.. but like this season, they are often the same
      3. It takes long enough to develop the vaccine and fill the supply/delivery pipeline that currently not viable to re-formulate it after learning from the experience of the Southern hemisphere

      Now you may resume your diatribe against CDC but find some other reasoning… 🙂

  • “Officials feared that the flu vaccine may not work particularly well this season, but it appears to be faring slightly better than expected.”

    so expectations were that it wasnt going to work well when released, but it has worked better than expected…??? CDC at its best. Control the message of health, drugs, and all its evils.

  • Record people getting flu shot, record number still getting flu…
    How about frequent hand washing, eating clean food and exercising instead?

  • Take enough colloidal silver and all of a sudden you’ll turn into a pretty blue Smurf. Permanently. It’s called argyria.

  • My husband is a scientist and I know better than to get any sort of vaccinations. The fact that the flu itself has never killed anyone or rubella or the mumps or chicken pox among others . Do your own research. Stop taking advice from people that spent $200,000 on a career that is a Practice ,meaning it’s not a science, it’s something that’s always changing, has opiniones inserted and is not factual. This should be a sign to the people that the vaccines are just a sales tactic, a way for them to take money from us, if not kill us off controlling the population..because then themselves can make us sick from the heavy metals and the poisons they put in them to cross the blood-brain barrier. Get wise or die with the 🐑. Research what these heavy metals do to your body and your immune system that are contained in the vaccination. If they’re good for why do they have to bypass your immune system, the one thing meant to protect you, your body and your livelihood. Also research this, if all these stupid doctors would just flipping go on strike death toll drops by 50% that alone should tell you something. Also ask your doctor before he gives you the vaccine if he knows what’s in it and if he can tell you the permanent long-term effects from the deposits of these poisons in your body. So much for that really expensive degree they have. Also Google your doctor’s name see how much the companies that make these vaccines are paying them to give you the shot.

    • Hey Juanita, did your husband get his “scientist” degree in mexico? The population of the world wouldn’t be 1/4 what it is today without vaccines. By all means I think you and your family should avoid all vaccines and never go to the doctor especially when you’re severely ill, which is when all you nutters give up on your cognitive dissonance and have your lives saved. Otherwise you just live off of and weaken herd immunity. Have a terrible day:)

    • No one has ever died from the flu?? Plenty of people have! Even with me being young and healthy, Ive twice had serious flu with trouble breathing, double ear infections and gallons of mucus coming out my eyes! Both times I hadnt vaccinated. When I do, I either dont get sick or get a mild, tame version of cold or flu. Yes the long term effects of the preservatives are concerning, but without vaccine I could die from complications much earlier or be forced to pay for anti flu meds i cant afford. There IS a preservative free version of the flu shot available at doctors and walgreens! Try that!

    • Really Juanita? Where do you do your research aside from listening to your scientist spouse? There are any number of off the wall nut job web sites perfectly willing to support any hare brained misconception you set out to prove. The facts are that every year it’s estimated what will be the most prevalent strains of flu and vaccines are produced accordingly. It’s not a perfect science and, yes, even people who are vaccinated will succumb. However, for the millions who come in contact with the strains they’re vaccinated against the flu vaccine is a way of avoiding two weeks of misery in the very least and a potential lifesaver for many. Please find some reliable sources and educate yourself as to the benefits of the vaccines. Your contrarian views formed in mistrust and skepticism and reinforced by misinformation are far more harmful than an annual flu shot.

  • people need to stop getting flu shots. whatever is in them is meant to spread . smh stay away from vaccines.

  • The World Heath Organization alerted to the “super flu” spreading from African continent weeks ago. Issue is the beliefs there is plenty of medicine for populations and misunderstandings of contagious period. People seldom self quarantine and cause greater harm than good to themselves and those around them. Stay well and sanitize often.

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